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Category: Marathon

Rabid Raccoon 100 – You can’t train for this much mud

Rabid Raccoon is a relatively new 100 miler for PA.  This would be the first time I would take on a 100-miler this early in the season, and potentially deal with some cold temperatures.  That was the case last year when they had a low finish rate.  The weather this year was perfect, except for some rain late into the night, it was mostly sunny and warm.  This is a looped race on a course with a few streams running down the trails.  There were multiple variations of the race going on with 2-half marathons, a 100K, and the 100M.  You could also run a 5K the day before.  With this many races going off on a looped course it was getting destroyed by the participants.  Below are some of the issues and things I went through as I battled the muddy Rabid Raccoon 100.  

Right before the start of the race. Training buddy Alex Takacs

What went right

Being a March 100 the race itself changed a lot of my training.  Knowing that you have to complete this in March will make you skip the “off” or transition season.  I enjoyed that and it maintained my fitness from the previous year.

Barefoot Stream Crossing

Went barefoot 3 or of 8 times crossing this stream. It felt good and preserved my feet.

Initially, this helped to keep my feet healthy/dry, but as the course became more and more muddy there was no avoiding getting wet.  On the final loops, there was no avoiding just how waterlogged your shoes became. I think I took my shoes off for 3 loops and it did help keep them in decent shape.

Food Plan

I had pre-made bags with RX bars, cashews, goldfish, and shot blocks.  This worked well for most of the race.  I leaned on the aid stations for real food as always with soup and broth.  

Friends and Crew

This more than anything helped me finish.  I shared the race with several runners from the past.  Sharing the race with some great runners made it worth pushing forward.

Alex Takacs – He kicked off the race with perfect pacing and made the race feel like just another day at the Wissahickon, our training ground.  He was the one that got me to sign up for this race.

Trying to avoid the mud in the beginning. The key word is “trying”.

Phil from – When I saw the long flowing hair and orange shirt I knew it was him.  We shared miles like we did in the Eastern States race.  He was part of a fun crew that helped me get through that difficult 100.

The running sage himself – Phil Perkins

Michael Fatigante (Loop 7) – Rockstar runner Michael not only paced me late into the night, but he took 3rd overall at the half marathon AND was the support crew for a 100K runner.  When he should have been sleeping he was out running loop 7 late into the night.  I tried to talk him out of it, but he insisted he wanted to help. I would have thrown in the towel at loop 7 because I was tired, and those aid stations were very comfortable.  BEWARE THE CHAIR as they had a sign that stated.

Who takes 3rd in a half marathon, runs support for 100K, and finally tops it off pacing ME for 4 hours. This crazy guy! God bless his heart. – Michael Fatigante

What went wrong


INSANE level of mud.

How do you train to slide around in the mud?  You spend lots of energy with poor footing and having to calculate every step makes a race more difficult.  Yeah, you could go stomping around in streams in your long run, but it takes 20+ hours for the damage and issues to surface from a race like this.  I was using anti-friction powder and dry socks. LOTS OF DRY SOCKS, I used every pair and I wished I had more.  

Stomach issues after a pepperoni pizza.

What was I thinking?  I asked for a slice and the kid asked if pepperoni was OK.  I said yes, but take my word for it.  Pepperoni is NOT OK in a 100M.  My stomach turned after that and I slowed down for 4-5 miles until it “passed”.

Foot care  

Good luck trying to save your feet

I didn’t pack enough socks. I knew that there would be water and streams in the area, and my initial strategy was working well. However, the trail became excessively damaged due to heavy use. Someone improvised by using trash bags to cover their feet. I wonder if he got across without water seeping in? The persistent mud made it impossible to keep one’s feet dry.

Course tracking died for my friends and family

I reverted to just taking my phone out of airplane mode and texting them after completing each loop. Live tracking broke. I know you can never count on this so always have a backup.  

What I would have done differently

Foot care – Foot care – Foot care

Your feet will be getting wet 8 times and water-logged for much of the day.  Use powder or something to absorb the moisture like spraying your feet with alcohol, or changing into dry socks.  Can you practice this?  Maybe, but it’s really hard to train for this level of mud. It’s funny because I would pass Phil, then tend to my feet, and he would pass me.  Some people don’t need as much foot care, but I like to keep them healthy for as much of the race as possible. 

100 Miler Monster – The Muddy Rabid Raccoon

If they change the course next year I say remove the stream crossing.  It added nothing except novelty to the race.  The course is already so wet.  It also increases their drop rate if temps are frigid.  The course was changed from the previous year, but it should remove some of the sections that are perpetually wet with runoff.  Remove some of the concurrent races.  Focus on just the 100K and 100M and make those the best they can be.  900+ people on a course destroyed the trails BEFORE a single drop of rain fell.  Of all my 100M finishes this one ranks in last place.  Food and aid stations get a 10, but the course gets a 1.  It had some of the friendliest people, amazing food, and the nicest facilities.  If they modify the course and limit the number of races they could have an amazing 100M/100K.    

The French toast bread was an amazing award.

Special thanks to support crew captain and chief – Pascal Durante my awesome father.  I couldn’t have gotten to the starting line in life, and this course without him.  Thanks to my wife and mother for watching the kids. 

Final note: One of the strangest things to happen was raccoons checked out my shoes/poles after the race. I had put them at the back of my house when I got home. This was the first time I had seen raccoons near my house! Weird…

Two raccoons check out my shoes and poles after the race.

My last post talked about battling a “100 Miler Monster”, well this is what I think he looked like. First I tried to generate a “mud monster”, then I tried to do a “Raccoon Mud Monster”. Enjoy!

Philadelphia Trail Marathon Race Report

  • What went right?
    • I didn’t go with a vest as this was a “shorter” race for me.  I kept my kit light with only 1 waist bottle holder.
    • My pace was very dialed in.  For this distance and vert, I know I can handle 8:30 – 9:00 pace depending on the weather.  I had just done a race that went well last year with this exact same setup and kit so I know it was tested. 
    • I know every section of the course.  I have run every trail and every turn of this course multiple times.  Nothing beats having the home-court advantage.  This doesn’t normally happen for my races as I like to do different races every year.  I got the best sleep ever because I felt like it was just going to be a training run.  Maybe it’s worth it to visit a course beforehand to get that peace of mind?
    • Made sure to power hike almost every climb in the beginning to save my energy.  I saved it for where it counts, on the downhills and flat sections.  (really not many of those)
PHOTO CREDIT:  Doug Rafalski
This is my light weight 50K kit.
  • What went wrong?
    • I pushed the limits of dehydration.  I really should have made sure to drink on a schedule versus just doing it at the aid stations.  I wasn’t taking enough liquids and it was warming up at 11 AM.
    • Too fast of a start.  This wasn’t my choice, the trail narrowed so you had to jump out ahead to avoid the traffic jam.  The first mile clocked in at 6 minutes and I immediately pulled back.  I made sure to run my own race and that is critical in every ultra.
  • What would I do differently?
    • I got lazy with my eating and drinking and it happens almost every race unless I set a timer to go off on my watch every 30 minutes.  I just got to remember to do that BEFORE the race start.  That’s the biggest thing that can cause issues later in a race because once you are behind with nutrition, its a losing battle.  
    • I’m going to practice the crap out of this course.  If this race happens again next year I now have the GPX and course mapped out.  I’m gonna run this course once a week.  They had no GPX file before the race.
    • Light vs heavy shoe.  I swapped to a light vs heavy shoe and it was the right call.  This course drains well from heavy rain and wasn’t muddy.   I didn’t need crazy tread shoes.

Final Thoughts

Me as a kid at the Wiss wearing a bart simpson T-shirt.  This section was on the course.

The Wissahickon has been a place that I’ve been going to since I was young. The fact they put together a marathon here was incredible and it was a perfect course.  I was so grateful to be out there and racing.  This is my home turf and basically where I grew up.  This is by far the best event Uber Endurance put together.  I can see myself coming back every year to run this course.  It meant so much to me over the years and this was a near-perfect way to experience it. This park has helped me grow into the person I am today.  How can a park help you grow?  It can challenge you and introduce you to new people.  It can be a place for your kids to play and explore.  

The Japanese practice “Forest Bathing”, or shinrin-yoku as they call it. Spending time in nature is good for both physical and mental well-being. It is proven to reduce stress hormone production, improve feelings of happiness and free up creativity, as well as lower heart rate and blood pressure, boost the immune system and accelerate recovery from illness. As somebody who grew up in the city coming out to the Wissahickon as a kid always felt better. I never knew why, but after reading about shinrin-yoku I understand.

So if you had to choose between the Philly Marathon or the Philly “TRAIL” Marathon, that’s a pretty easy choice! 😉

If you want to download the GPX file of the course to practice on it is here: